When I started this blog I assumed that I would regularly write about certain themes. Like food. Shopping. Local adventures. And I have come back to those topics more than once. What I did not expect to write about at all–let alone three times–is poop. And yet here we are.
Earlier this year we visited Taipei, which included a meal at Modern Toilet restaurant. Shortly after that, Tessa and I headed to the Toto Museum. Many people would find two toilet-themed blog posts roughly two posts too many. But last week yet another poop-themed blogging opportunity presented itself: a fabulous homework assignment from a Japanese school with some rather unfortunate though accurate translations in English.
Before we go any further, a warning: in the past I’ve kept my language pretty clean. But today, that all goes in the shitter (har!). You’ll see why.
So the story: an American friend here in Yokohama named Rachel briefly sent her son we’ll call Jack to their local Japanese elementary school. Jack spoke no Japanese whatsoever, but the school simply did what they did for previous students. A translator came in from time to time, but for the most part he was expected to immerse himself and pick up the language. It works for some kids, but it didn’t for Jack. His Japanese school career was rather brief, and he came home with a stack of books and papers. A few months later Rachel found the papers and headed for the recycling bin when the English translations on several pages caught her eye.
Here’s Page 1:
For those of you who can’t quite read the handwriting on the photo, here it is:
- Did you take a shit this morning? Yes, No
- If yes, what kind of type is your shit? Liquid, softy, like banana, like stones, others
- When do you take a shit usually? Morning, at school, random
- Do you take a shit every day? Yes, No, not know
Jack’s writing along the right margin: SILENT MINE AND SLENDER MAN [note: In case you haven’t already figured this out, Jack is absolutely awesome.]
And page 2:
And the text: Let’s keeping a good life with taking a good shit!! [note: not my double exclamation points]
The shit dialy [note: probably meant for it to say diary]
As Rachel learned, the school uses volunteer translators to help English-speaking students while practicing their own English language skills. “It would probably take a lot to explain that this word is correct but not appropriate,” Rachel said, with far more restraint than I could muster.
Now, it’s easy to laugh at the well-meaning but not-quite-right translation. But. But! Why are Japanese school kids talking about shit, anyway? Some rather unscientific observations follow.
Many public restrooms include toilets with a waterfall recording (and apparently classical music, though I’ve never seen this one myself) to mask offending tinkling noises. This suggests widespread poop shame. Yet (husband) Mark has noticed that his Japanese employees go into far–and I mean FAR–more detail about their medical appointments and afflictions than his American co-workers do. A restaurateur friend confirms this; he has overheard far more extremely medically graphic dinnertime conversations than he would care to.
It’s no mystery that healthy poop reflects a healthy diet and lifestyle. I’ll let you Google that one if you’d like, since my browser history for this post probably already has me flagged in Who Knows What databases.
So let’s imagine the Shit Diary homework assignment. After a week of maintaining a Shit Diary, do the children discuss their answers aloud in class, in front of their friends? Are there right and wrong answers? If there are wrong answers, are children shit-shamed for not shitting often enough, or with the correct consistency? Does this lead to Shit Diary falsification?
So many questions.
Instead of answers, I leave you with this: the Golden Poop souvenir, available at an airport gift shop near you.